France could block adult websites without age verification checks by 24 May 2022

France Age Verification

On March 8 the French audiovisual and digital communication regulator Arcom took a case to the Judicial Court of Paris on the basis that several adult websites with free content had failed to comply with legal obligations to introduce age verification checks on users, despite receiving an injunction in December.

“The formal notices issued by the regulator have not been acted upon to date,” said Arcom in a published statement. “If the courts, in the long term, so decide, the websites of the publishers will no longer be accessible from French territory.”

Bailiff’s reports commissioned by Arcom found that the sites have not modified their access conditions. The sites’ current approach of simply asking users to tick a check-box stating they are over 18 is seen as not satisfactory and that by failing to introduce better controls they are breaking the law.

The blocking of websites still depends on the decision of the court, whose hearing is scheduled for May 24. But if the judge rules in favor of Arcom, internet users who try to access the sites will instead be automatically redirected to a webpage explaining why access is restricted. Arcom may also request that search engines such as Google, Bing, and Qwant delist them.

The legal action marks the latest in a long line of efforts to clamp down on children’s access to the free porn industry. In November 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron voiced his opposition to the unregulated nature of online porn in France. “Uniting the virtual world, stereotypes, domination and violence, pornography has found, thanks to digital tools, a right of citizenship in our schools,” he said.

Porn sites operating in France have been required to put in place an age verification mechanism since a law on domestic violence, which included a clause relating to age checks, was passed in July 2020. Offenders risk, in addition to removing their content from search engines, up to three years’ imprisonment and a fine of €375,000 ($US410,000).

AgeGO provides a complete age verification solution for adult websites, that ensures total privacy for end users. Click here for more information.

Children’s charity Barnardos has requested all adult websites introduce age verification

age verification

UK Children’s charity Barnardo’s has written an open letter calling for all adult websites to introduce age verification voluntarily, without waiting for the UK Governement’s Online Safety Bill to come into law.

The open letter, which has been signed by a dozen organisations, that have called for pornography websites to change their content standards.

Calls for the voluntary age-verification comes as MPs prepare to debate the new Online Safety Bill, which was recently introduced to Westminster. The bill would force all commercial pornography websites to implement age-verification.

Lynn Perry MBE, Bernardo’s chief executive, said: “Every day children are seeing harmful pornography online and we must act now to protect them.”

AgeGO provides a complete age verification solution for adult websites, that ensures total privacy for end users. Click here for more information.

UK & Australia moving forward with age verification legislation

Both the UK and Australian Governments are advancing their agendas to ensure that adult content sites ensure their users are 18 years old or over.

In the UK, the planned Online Safety Bill will be expanded to legally require “robust checks” are made by websites. Chris Philp, the digital minister, said “We are now strengthening the online safety bill so it applies to all porn sites to ensure we achieve our aim of making the internet a safer place for children.” Under the plans, the UK’s Ofcom will be able fine sites up to 10 per cent of their annual worldwide turnover or can block them from being accessible in the UK if they fail to act. The legislation had initially only targeted commercial porn sites that allow user-generated content, now all commercial porn sites are to be included within the scope of the proposed new rules. Age verification should be a implemented on any website displaying pornographic content and the sites should not process or store data that is irrelevant to the purpose of checking age.

Australia’s eSafety Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, intends to present the roadmap to the federal government by the end of the year that outlines that age verification trials are now under way in Australia for online gambling and alcohol sales, and are projected to be expanded to include online pornography as the federal government looks to restrict sexually explicit content on the internet from underage children.

UK considering to revive age verification scheme for online adult content

age verification

A U.K. parliamentary committee, chaired by Damian Collins MP, commented that “A lack of regulation online has left too many people vulnerable to abuse, fraud, violence and in some cases even loss of life,” he claimed. His U.K. parliamentary committee has spent six months analyzing the government’s proposals for “online safety” reforms.

At the beginning of December 2021, the UK Government commented in The Times newspaper that it is ready to revive an age verification scheme for online adult content — a plan previously shelved in favor of the pending Online Safety Bill.

The Times was told that an age verification plan was now “being looked on with approval by Nadine Dorries, the culture secretary, and Nadhim Zahawi, the education secretary.”

“Their support follows work by Dame Rachel de Souza, the Children’s Commissioner, who has sent a report to ministers recommending that age verification become compulsory on all porn sites,” The Times added.

According to tech news site TechCrunch, the committee’s report endorsed the government’s push “to go beyond industry self-regulation by enforcing compliance with a set of rules intended to hold tech giants accountable for the content they spread and monetize — including via a series of codes of practice and with the media regulator, Ofcom, given a new major oversight and enforcement role over Internet content.”

“The era of self-regulation for big tech has come to an end,” committee chair Damian Collins declared.

AgeGO offers an age verification solution for adult websites that respects all privacy laws for individuals, it is easy to implement and offers several verification methods including passport, driving licence, mobile phone and credit card. Contact us for more information.

AgeGO Wins Best Age Verification Technology Solutions Award (Western Europe)

18 May 2021, Dublin, Ireland. AgeGo has been awarded Best Age Verification Technology Solutions (Western Europe) by the 2021 Irish Enterprise Awards. Created by EU Business News, the Irish Enterprise Awards are now in their fourth year and showcase exemplary Irish businesses.

AgeGO’s COO Adrien Fonzé commented, “We are very proud to have been selected for this award. Since launching AgeGO two years ago, we have continually improved our technology to create the most comprehensive age verification solution on the market today. Our age verification methods lead the industry and our technology is able to verify a user’s age anonymously while staying fully GDPR compliant because no personal data is stored.”

Awards Coordinator Katherine Benton commented: “Congratulations to AgeGO. It is with great pride that we showcase the best of the best from across the entirety of Ireland carrying out business within the EU.”

AgeGO and all the winners in the various Irish Enterprise Awards categories can be viewed at EU Business News.

French regulators push adult sites to implement age verification

Teenagers in France on mobile phones

In early March 2021, France’s media regulatory agency, the Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel (CSA) wrote to several large traffic volume adult content websites asking that they implement an age verification system by 16 March. Letters were sent to Pornhub.com, xHamster.com, XVideos.com, XNXX.com, Tukif.com, JacquieEtMichel.net, JacquieEtMicheltv.net and JacquieEtMicheltv2.net.

With the deadline now passed and if nothing is done after a fifteen day period, then the president of the CSA can call the President of the Judicial Tribunal of Paris to issue a judicial order to the companies telling them to ‘put an end to the access to this service.’ The offending individual risks three years imprisonment and a fine of €75,000, with the fine amount being multiplied by five to €375,000 for companies.

French legal experts also mentioned an intermediate step before total shutdown: having the CSA and a judge ask search engines to “dereference” or “deprioritize” the seven websites so they no longer show in search results.

The push has come about following an initiative by President Emmanuel Macron’s government regarding an amendment to Article 23 after France’s parliament passed a law last year against domestic violence that includes provisions obliging pornographic websites to install age verification, without specifying what technical means they should take. The law also gives the President of the CSA the power to send a formal notice to any company or person whose online activity allows minors to have access to pornographic content. 

Despite the passed deadline the sites appear to still be active in France. It is unclear at this point if the judicial authorities have been contacted by the CSA to report the apparent non-compliance. The sites in question are posting notices on their homepages trying to inform the public of the French government’s threats.

AgeGO offers an age verification solution for adult websites that respects all privacy laws for individuals, it is easy to implement and offers several verification methods including passport, driving licence, mobile phone and credit card. Contact us for more information.

 

UK Government plans Online Safety Bill for 2021

age verification

The UK Government outlined its plans to introduce new rules for tech firms in its Online Harms White Paper, to make the UK a safer place to be online. The safety of children is at the heart of the measures.

The new regulations will apply to any company in the world hosting user-generated content online that is accessible by people in the UK or enabling them to privately or publicly interact with others online.

All companies will need to take appropriate steps to address illegal content and activity such as terrorism and child sexual abuse. They will also be required to assess the likelihood of children accessing their services and, if so, provide additional protections for them. This could be by using age verification solutions to ensure children are not accessing platforms which are not suitable for them.

The scope includes social media, video sharing and instant messaging platforms, online forums, dating apps, commercial pornography websites, as well as online marketplaces, peer-to-peer services, consumer cloud storage sites and video games which allow online interaction. Search engines will also be subject to the new regulations. 

Tech platforms will need to do far more to protect children from being exposed to harmful content or activity such as grooming, bullying and pornography. The white paper divides online platforms into two categories:

  • Category 1 services include companies with the largest online presences and high-risk features: Facebook, TikTok, Instagram and Twitter. These companies will need to assess the risk of legal content or activity on their services with “a reasonably foreseeable risk of causing significant physical or psychological harm to adults”. They will then need to make clear what type of “legal but harmful” content is acceptable on their platforms in their terms and conditions and enforce this transparently and consistently.  All companies will need mechanisms so people can easily report harmful content or activity while also being able to appeal the takedown of content. Category 1 companies will be required to publish transparency reports about the steps they are taking to tackle online harms.
  • Category 2 services are platforms which host dating services or pornography and private messaging apps. Less than three per cent of UK businesses will fall within the scope of the legislation and the vast majority of companies will be Category 2 services.  

Ofcom is now confirmed as the regulator with the power to fine companies who fail in their duty of care. Fines will be up to £18 million or ten percent of annual global turnover, whichever is higher. It will have the power to block non-compliant services from being accessed in the UK and the government will reserve the power for senior managers to be held liable.

As well as ensuring that online businesses comply with the new laws proposed by the UK, AgeGO recommends that commercial pornography sites and adult dating platforms should begin using some kind of age verification solution to ensure users of their platforms are 18 years or over. This acts as an additional safety measure to not only to stop underage users from accessing adult content, but also ensuring compliance for their businesses. 

French Parliament Agrees to Age Verification Requirement

The French Parliament unanimously agreed in July 2020 to introduce an Age Verification (AV) requirement aimed at preventing minors from accessing pornographic websites.

France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, had made a commitment months ago to implement such a system.

According to news site Politico, Macron made the protection of children against adult content online a high-profile issue well before the coronavirus crisis hit. In January, tech companies, internet service providers and the adult movie industry signed a voluntary charter, pledging to roll out tools to help ensure minors don’t have access to pornographic content. The new French law, gives sites discretion to decide how to perform age verification. Requiring users to enter a credit card number seems to be one of the most popular options, the news site reported.

In order to enforce the law, the French audiovisual regulator CSA will be granted new powers to audit and sanction companies that do not comply, sanctions could go as far as blocking access to the websites in France with a court order, if the site does not comply within 15 days after a first warning from the audiovisual regulator CSA, the regulator will be able to ask the Paris Court of Justice to send an order to telecom operators to block the access to these sites from France.

Australia moves one step further to introducing online age verification

The Australian parliamentary committee has compiled a report that recommends creating an “e-safety commissioner” in order to develop a procedure for mandatory age verification (AV) within the next 12 months, making it mandatory for Australian citizens to submit to an identity verification service run by the federal government.

The report, entitled ‘Protecting the Age of Innocence,’ was issued by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs in Canberra.

According to sources Australia’s AV procedure would involve minimal retention of personal information, so as to not create a honeypot of sensitive data and the retained data must be stored securely, but the committee did not recommend using a facial recognition service under development.

Additionally, the committee recommended that more regulation could be considered to capture social media sites, and did not rule out potentially bringing back mandatory internet filtering

Committee members acknowledged the U.K.’s stalled efforts at AV and called for a further review of the issue, observing the public may not trust a system that could potentially increase risks and have unintended consequences around data security and privacy.

View a PDF of the parliamentary committee report here.

German parents want a good age verification system to protect children online

Germany is looking at safeguarding children who are viewing online content and social media, which could also include age verification to protect them from online pornography. 

A recent survey published by Germany’s children’s rights organization Kinderhilfswerk (DHKW) states that that are not enough safeguards for children on social media, video and games portals, with 55% of parents saying that their children had been hurt by ‘excessive’ consumption, mobbing, violence and pornography.

93% of parents want harsher penalties for domestic and foreign platforms under Germany’s child protection laws and 97% said that a good system of age verification was important in the choice of social media services, online content and games for their children. 88% said they scanned for age suitability for films, apps, games and streaming services, when overseeing their children’s digital consumption usage.

Only 37% said that they knew who to consult about negative experiences and only 66% were inclined to consult prosecutory services, notably the police.

Late last year, Federal Family Minister Franziska Giffey submitted a draft “juvenile media protection” bill. Katja Mast, deputy leader of the SPD parliamentary party, told the German news agency DPA that such a modernization was agreed within the coalition Government. Giffey’s bill will be submitted to a Bundestag parliamentary debate before Summer 2020.

DHKW president Thomas Krüger, commented, “We need a comprehensive system of child and juvenile media protection orientated around the real usage behaviors of children and teenagers. Providers of messenger services and video platforms are insufficient.”